The 13-year-old boy shot and killed by an Ohio cop was carrying a BB gun that looked “practically identical” to a police weapon, authorities said Thursday.
Tyre King was fatally shot when police in Columbus responded Wednesday night to a call about an armed robbery.
Columbus Police Chief Kim Jacobs displayed a photo at a press conference Thursday of what she said was a “replica” of the BB gun held by Tyre, which had a laser scope on it.
“Our officers carry a gun that looks practically identical to this weapon,” she said. “As you can see, it looks like a firearm that could kill you.”
Jacobs said officers were responding to a call about armed robbery — a group was sticking people up for money on the street, and one of them was armed, witnesses told cops.
The black 13-year-old was shot multiple times by Columbus police officer Bryan Mason, who is white. Mason, a nine-year veteran of the department, opened fire when Tyre pulled what appeared to be a weapon from his waistband, police said.
Only later did investigators realize it was a BB gun, police said.
The shooting sparked instant comparisons to the November 2014 death of Tamir Rice. The nearby Cleveland Police Department was sharply criticized after 12-year-old Tamir was fatally shot by one of its rookie cops. Rice was playing with a toy gun nearby a gazebo when he was killed.
But Chief Jacobs said it was too early to compare Tyre’s shooting to Tamir’s — even though both were young black men with toy guns shot by white police officers.
“We don’t have enough facts to know anything how this relates to any other shooting, including Tamir Rice’s,” Jacobs said. “That’s why we do an investigation.”
Officers responding to the 7:42 p.m. call Wednesday for armed robbery spoke to a witness who said some young men were demanding money on the street, police said.
Cops then spotted Tyre and two other young men a few blocks away and realized they matched the suspect descriptions.
When officers approached the trio and tried to talk to them, Tyre and another young man bolted into a nearby alley, police said.
As cops chased them down, the 13-year-old pulled out what officers thought was a firearm, police said.
“Officers followed the males to the alley … and attempted to take them into custody when one suspect pulled a gun from his waistband,” the Columbus police department said.
“One officer shot and struck the suspect multiple times.”
But the law firm of Walton & Brown, retained by Tyre’s family, said some witnesses have come forward with stories that contradict the police narrative.
“The best thing that the city of Columbus could do to ease the minds and fears of its citizens is to step aside and let an independent party investigate the matter,” attorney Chandra Brown said.
She added that Tyre was a typical 13-year-old who liked football, soccer and other sports.
Her partner Sean Walton cautioned against a “rush to judgment,” noting police had yet to show evidence of their claims.
“We do not know what (Tyre) did or did not do. There are allegations that have been made regarding his actions, and those allegations cannot be taken as factual until a thorough, unbiased investigation has taken place,” Walton said.
“Until we have answers we must continue to call for transparency and accountability not only in all police-involved killings, but especially in the case of this 13-year-old boy,” he said.
Chief Jacobs said Officer Mason was on administrative leave during the investigation, per department protocol.
One of the young men with Tyre was identified by the Columbus-Dispatch as 19-year-old Demetrius Braxton.
Braxton said the group was looking to grab some cash.
“We robbed somebody, the people I was with,” Braxton told the newspaper.
When police started chasing them, Tyre and Braxton ran, he said. But when cops yelled to get down, they did.
“We got down but my friend (King) got up and ran. He started to run. When he ran, the cops shot him,” Braxton said, according to the newspaper.
He said Tyre was hit four or five times.
“I didn’t think a cop would shoot. Why didn’t they tase him?” Braxton said.
Detectives are searching for surveillance footage of the shooting. Jacobs also urged anyone who might have captured cellphone video to come forward and show it to police.
Mayor Andrew Ginther, speaking at the press conference, said the community should be shocked and outraged by the 13-year-old’s death.
“Why is it that a 13-year-old would have nearly an exact replica of a police firearm on him in our neighborhoods? An eighth grader who was involved in very, very dangerous conduct,” said Ginther, a Democrat.
He added that none of the responding officers were wearing body cameras. The department expected to fully implement cameras by the end of the year, according to reports. But only about 30 Columbus officers have the technology now, the mayor said.
In an emotional moment, Ginther called on the community to help end the nation’s epidemic of gun violence — citing real and fake firearms as part of the problem.
“We in the community have to come to grips with the fact that such easy access to guns — whether they are firearms or replicas — means something is wrong with this country,” he said.
Tyre was rushed to a nearby children’s hospital after the shooting but could not be saved.
With News Wire Services
With Chris Sommerfeldt